Friday, March 14, 2008

The other reason creatives stay up late

You'd like to think the late nights ad folk are famous for are just a by-product of our undying passion for the work. But that's only half the story. Alongside desire, there's fear, as Bart Cleveland explains:

The advertising industry is a great white shark, always feasting, yet never satisfied. You had better get better if you want a career that lasts for more than a few years...

The cause of the problem for many seniors in this business is that too many have avoided committing themselves to growing in responsibility or ability.

The ability that many senior-level people lack these days is Web skills. And there's been no shortage of people predicting doom.

Yesterday, it was our own Denver Egotist:

Being in such high demand, are these developers simply moving to more established landscapes, or is Denver simply a microcosm of a national drought?

On the national level, there was Brian Morrissey, quoted here via Scott Goodson:

Clients are placing more emphasis on mastering social media but find their agencies ill equipped to help them succeed in that space, according to a new survey.

And there was Benjamin Palmer worrying that ad agencies aren't up to the Web 2.0 challenge:

Everyone talks about how the industry is changing, nontraditional media, fragmented audiences, blah blah blah. It's true, it's progress, and it's fantastic. It is also obviously scaring the crap out of traditional ad shops.

I see this meme over and over. And I'm never quite sure who these "traditional ad shops" are. Maybe it's because I've never worked at a Madison Avenue monolith; I imagine they'd be harder to evangelize. Both of the agencies I've had the pleasure to work for in the past four years embraced Web 2.0. And when I write "embraced," I mean, "threw our arms around it and kissed it like Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams making out in The Notebook."

At TT&D, we built the first social network for iPhone users, launched a UGC contest for WOW! and asked Colorado to build us a state activity map for Colorado Farm Bureau Insurance. At Karsh\Hagan, we're enabling student-generated content for Regis University, launching McDonald's film on YouTube, and we've got a few new projects upcoming, one of which will be here on May 15.

I know these aren't quite Barbarian Group-level technology applications. I'm not trying to go toe to toe with Palmer creatively. But the "agencies genetically can't get the Intertubes" meme sounds like something invented by interactive shops. And I'm not buying it. Because as Palmer himself writes:

[I]t's not that hard to adapt, if you really want to.

In fact, ad agencies have a better 2.0 mindset than some interactive agencies. (Although many have been slow to realize their advantage.) As Ian Schafer wrote:

[I]f the agency doesn’t have a full media/creative/public relations offering, they probably won’t be able to have the right (and unbiased) experience and best practices to succeed in social media.

The answer isn't as simple as building a better Internet offering. It's about integration. Every day, I see the best Denver agencies staying up late, developing the ability to create great work across integrated media.

It makes me get all weepy. Just like that scene in The Notebook.

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